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Written by Stephen Langfur
Article Index
Israel Museum
Shrine of the Book
Model: Jerusalem, 66 AD
Herod the Great: A special exhibit
Logistics for Herodium

Shrine of the Book

As we approach the Israel Museum, the Shrine of the Book appears at once. Its white-tiled dome is shaped like the top of the first jar in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Opposite stands a wall of black stone. The contrast suggests the strong dualism of the Scrolls, one of which has been dubbed by scholars "The War of the Children of Light Against the Children of Darkness."

Shrine of the Book

The building is constructed like a cave: we go into a narrow hall, where we see items from Qumran. At its end, on both sides, are two of the first jars in which the scrolls were discovered. Then we enter the circular hall beneath the dome. Around a drum in the center is a modern copy of Isaiah, complete.

All the scrolls on the sides of the hall are selected from the actual ones that were found. They are made of fine lambskin, scraped and cut and sewn together. After etching guidelines, the scribe hung his letters from them. Because light damages the parchment, the staff alternates the examples frequently.

On the significance of these scrolls and the group that made them, see the following:

Qumran (Introduction)
The Scrolls and the Bible

Qumran as a site

The Shrine usually includes parts of the following scrolls in its display:

The Manual of Discipline (or Community Rule). This is the rule book of the group (probably the Essenes). The text contains many emendations.

The War of the Children of Light against the Children of Darkness. Although the scroll has been eaten here and there, the writing is very fine.

The Temple Scroll. This was the longest found - 27 feet. It is also the best preserved. The community must have regarded it as sacred, for here God speaks in the first person, giving instructions about the proper way in which His Temple should be built.

Isaiah. Many exemplars from this prophet were found, including the complete book. Often the Shrine will show the transition from Isaiah 39 to 40, which some scholars take as the transition from a first to a second Isaiah. In the scroll there is no distinguishing mark or break.